US Senate looks to end last of abortion-related military promotion blockade

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate will confirm this month the last of hundreds of military promotions held up for much of the year over a senator’s protest of the Pentagon’s payment of abortion-related travel costs, Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday.

“Before we leave for the Christmas holiday, the Senate will also finish confirming the last of the military nominees held up by Senator (Tommy) Tuberville,” Schumer said in remarks opening the Senate.

The Senate earlier this month confirmed more than 400 military nominees, after Tuberville, a Republican, said he would allow nominations to proceed for all officers except for about a dozen at the highest, four-star, rank.

Tuberville began blocking quick consideration of confirmations to senior Department of Defense posts in March to protest a military policy that provides paid leave and reimburses costs for service members who travel to get an abortion. The policy was introduced after the Supreme Court in 2022 overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling recognizing a constitutional right to abortion.

Tuberville’s action meant that hundreds of military promotions, normally approved quickly in large groups, would have to be confirmed one at a time, requiring many hours of floor time when the Democratic-led chamber could not pursue other business.

The Pentagon had argued that the delay placed an unfair burden on officers and families left in limbo without knowing when transfers would go ahead. Some of Tuberville’s fellow Republicans, led by military veterans, also put pressure on their colleague to lift his holds.

Military leaders said the holds threatened national security. In August, the Navy, Marine Corps and Army were all without a Senate-confirmed chief.

It was not immediately clear whether the Senate would hold separate votes on the remaining nominees, requiring about 30 separate votes due to the chamber’s procedural rules.

A Tuberville spokesperson did not immediately respond to a question about whether the senator had decided to allow the nominations to move ahead by unanimous consent.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Leslie Adler)